Around Town: Nina Simone Archive breaks ground

HIGH PRIESTESS HONORS: Crys Armbrust, left, Frances Waymon Fox, center, and Darren D. Lynch break ground May 1 on the Nina Simone Archive in Tryon. Photo by Robert Lange

The Nina Simone Project broke ground on the long-awaited Nina Simone Archive on May 1 in Tryon. The late, great soul singer’s younger sister, Frances Waymon Fox, attended the event at 65 S. Trade St., nearly a year after the $2 million capital campaign was announced and after nearly 15 years of planning. The event also featured a surprise concert by jazz/R&B artist Ledisi, one of two vocalists selected to perform at the 2019 Nina Simone Prom at Royal Albert Hall.

The archive will house rare recordings, scores, set lists, manuscripts, contracts, personal diaries, letters and more from throughout the Tryon native’s life, and will feature a rooftop performance stage, ground-level gallery space and two residential spaces for visiting artists. These holdings were recently enhanced by the addition of the Dr. Sylvia Hampton Collection, which NSP founder and chair Crys Armbrust describes as consisting of “correspondence, concert posters, photos and other ephemera” from the earliest era in Simone’s career. Also new to the Archive is the Aaron Overfield Collection, composed of what Armbrust calls “one-of-a-kind items, such as photos, film footage, contractual materials and other unique Simoniana.”

Armbrust says there is “no set-in-stone date for the archive’s completion,” but that construction will ideally begin in early 2022. He adds that the NSP will strive to continue hosting significant events on either Simone’s birthday (Feb. 21), the Celtic festival of Beltane, a nod to her “Keeper of the Flame” cover (May 1), or Juneteenth (June 19). For more information, visit

3-2-1 Contact

The Asheville Area Arts Council encourages Buncombe County residents to contact their local officials and request that federal stimulus funding from the American Rescue Plan go toward the local creative sector. Buncombe County is slated to receive $50.6 million, and the city of Asheville has been allocated $26.1 million. Katie Cornell, executive director of the AAAC, says that an “investment in the arts is crucial for small-business and jobs recovery and to foster community healing from the trauma we have experienced over the past year.” To learn more, visit

The champs are here

The Historic Resources Commission’s annual Historic Resources Champion Award will be given to South Asheville Cemetery Association founders George Gibson and George Taylor in a private event on Saturday, May 22. The recipients were nominated by HRC member James Vaughn, who says they “both embody the spirit of the award to be champions who draw people into historic preservation work in their efforts to save, preserve and restore the South Asheville Cemetery in the Kenilworth neighborhood.”

As a child, Gibson worked alongside George Avery, a former slave who served as the cemetery’s primary caretaker until his death in 1938 at age 94. When Gibson revisited the site in 1986, he was disturbed to see it in poor condition and vowed to restore the grounds to its former glory. Gibson and Taylor, the latter of whom will receive the award posthumously, rallied the community to accomplish that goal, though Vaughn notes it’s “an ongoing battle” to keep the property clean.

“Gibson, age 93, still serves on the [SACA] board and maintains an active interest in seeing [the cemetery] get through the next critical steps of securing National Historic Register status so it can pursue grants to restore the headstones and markers and create a permanent fund to care for the cemetery,” Vaughn says. Discover more at

The ties that bind

Asheville-based painter Patricia Hargrove’s exhibit, Connection, is currently on display at Spotlight Gallery, located on the second floor of Wedge Studios. According to the artist, the works reflect on “connections in relationship[s], nature, meditation and in painting itself,” and are accompanied by poems from local poets. Hargrove’s abstract and conceptual abstract creations may be viewed Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m., or by appointment. The exhibit will be up through Monday, May 31. Masks and social distancing are required. For more information, visit


Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center has received $50,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop a pilot project creating online access to the museum’s Permanent Collection. Digitization of the BMCM+AC Permanent Collection began in 2017 with funding from the Luce Foundation, and support from the NEH will make it possible for the organization to develop long-term, sustainable strategies for sharing its historic resources.

Kate Averett, outreach manager for BMCM+AC, says it was “selected for this award on the basis of a highly competitive and rigorous review process” and that the project will include research, digital strategy growth and software development. To learn more, visit

Polk County tunes

The Tryon Fine Arts Center will present a series of free live performances in its outdoor amphitheater throughout the summer. The slate of shows begins Thursday, May 20, at 7:30 p.m., with Brevard-based string band Pretty Little Goat and Tryon-based virtuoso violinist Jamie Laval. Other performances include Charleston, S.C.-based jazz drummer Quentin E. Baxter and poet Marcus Amaker (Thursday, May 27, at 7:30 p.m.); Asheville-based singer-songwriter Christopher Paul Stelling (Thursday, June 3, at 7:30 p.m.); and Asheville-based children’s artist Billy Jonas (Saturday, June 12, at 10 a.m.).

Masks are required, and parties will be spaced out according to current state guidelines. In the event of inclement weather, all performances will move indoors. Free to attend, but registration is required. To secure your seats, visit

Silver crafts

The Center for Craft kicks off a yearlong celebration of its 25th year on Wednesday, May 26, with its inaugural virtual benefit. The event runs 6-7 p.m., and features celebrated ceramics artist Magdalene Odundo and local potter Michael Sherrill as guest speakers, plus testimonials from craft artists and scholars who’ve benefited from the Center for Craft’s assistance. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased online at


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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